Every NFL football season I fire up my prediction program. I call it Zoltar. Just for fun, I created a little Zoltar machine that uses speech recognition to speak the results, but really all the work is done behind the scenes.

Anyway, for week 1 of the 2016 NFL season, Zoltar’s predictions are quite close to the Las Vegas betting line. In most of the 16 games, Zoltar agrees with Vegas with regards to which team will simply win the game. The one main exception (Zoltar sometimes predicts a virtual tie game) is that Zoltar believes the Redskins will beat the Steelers but Vegas has the Steelers winning.

Zoltar: panthers by 0 over broncos
Zoltar: colts by 5 over lions
Zoltar: packers by 1 over jaguars
Zoltar: bengals by 0 over jets
Zoltar: texans by 6 over bears
Zoltar: vikings by 5 over titans
Zoltar: seahawks by 6 over dolphins
Zoltar: eagles by 6 over browns
Zoltar: cardinals by 5 over patriots
Zoltar: bills by 0 over ravens
Zoltar: giants by 0 over cowboys
Zoltar: chiefs by 10 over chargers
Zoltar: falcons by 6 over buccaneers
Zoltar: saints by 3 over raiders
Zoltar: rams by 0 over fortyniners
Zoltar: redskins by 1 over steelers

Zoltar recommends betting when the difference between the Zoltar predictions and the Vegas point spread is more than 3 points. For week 1, Zoltar has three suggestions:

Zoltar predicts the Packer will beat the Jaguars by just 1 point but Vegas says the Packers will win by 5.5 points. So, Zoltar recommends betting on the Vegas underdog Jaguars vs. the Packers (you’ll win if the Jaguars win outright or if the Packers win but by less than the Vegas line of 5.5 points).

Zoltar predicts the Seahawks will beat the Dolphins by just 6 points but Vegas says the Seahawks will win by 10.5 points. So, Zoltar recommends betting on the Vegas underdog Dolphins vs. the Seahawks (you’ll win if the Dolphins win outright or if the Seahawks win but by less than the Vegas line of 10.5 points).

Zoltar predicts the Redskins will beat the Steelers by 1 point but Vegas says the Steelers will win by 3.0 points. So, Zoltar recommends betting on the Vegas underdog Redskins vs. the Steelers (you’ll win if the Redskins win outright or if the Steelers win but by less than the Vegas line of 3.0 points).

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Do you mind me asking what ML algorithm Zoltar is based on or is that a trade secret?

The algorithm is a ranking/rating approach. Basically, when a team wins it gets rating points and when a team loses, it loses rating points. In an upcoming game, the predicted margin of victory depends on the difference in ratings, and also factors including home field advantage, key injuries (statistically only four positions matter with regards to injuries), and a few other things. Of course, it’s all in the details — how many rating points to add and subtract, how much is the home field worth, etc.

I don’t post the exact algorithm because a.) it’s too long, and b.) I hope someday to convince my company to investigate formally (I just do Zoltar for fun, on weekends). JM

Thanks. Very interesting. I hope to build a similar predictor for Premier League football (soccer) here in England.

Tough weekend for the Zoltar….

It looks like he and the Vegas’s picks had the same results. Do you know if he had better results than Bing’s picks or any other expert’s picks?

Thanks!

WF